22nd Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers

Chinas Social Credit System


Dr. Samantha Hoffman


Dr. Samantha Hoffman studied International Affairs, East Asian Languages and Cultures as well as Modern and Contemporary Chinese Studies at Florida State University, the University of Oxford, and the University of Nottingham. At the latter, she received her PhD in Contemporary Chinese Studies. Since 2012, she has been research consultant at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) where she provides research for the Future Conflicts and Cyber Security and Defence and Military Analysis programmes. Hoffman is also co-author of the IISS Cyber Report. Moreover, she is an independent China analyst and consultant focusing on Chinese politics and internal security, as well as Asia-Pacific geopolitical and security issues. Her publications have appeared, amongst others, in the magazines Forbes, Foreign Policy, and China Brief, as well as in the newspapers South China Morning Post and The National Interest. Furthermore, Hoffman has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the WIRED magazine, and others, and she appeared in broadcast interviews including Al Jazeera’s Inside Story. Currently, she is a visiting academic fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin.



1. What do you consider to be an ‘intelligent’ city?

Objectively, an ‘intelligent’ or ‘smart’ city represents the design of a system integrating modern information and communications technology with the goal of improving the fulfilment of governance tasks. It embodies a holistic approach to problem-solving, and in its ideal form would optimise government resources in a way not previously possible without technology.


2. In your opinion, what are the most urgent problems that have to be solved on the way to intelligent cities?

In the People’s Republic of China, the governance tasks being optimised are inclusive of the Communist Party leadership’s objective to manage both the party itself and the broader society in order to maintain its own position in power. This adds a political and security layer to the concept that makes it fundamentally different to how the concept is generally understood in western democracies. When thinking about and discussing these concepts in international forums, it is critical to understand that using the same words is not necessarily equivalent to speaking the same language. There is a clear linkage in the party’s vernacular to the objective to use the construction of smart cities to improve vertical and horizontal coordination and integration resources for forecasting and handling crisis events (ranging from environmental to political), and in combining co-optive and coercive tactics to pre-emptively solve problems.


3. What are, in your opinion, the most exceptional chances arising with the change towards smart cities?

In the People’s Republic of China, smart cities are seen as a way to improve not only the optimisation of resources to improve governance (including positive and negative political and social control), it is also a way of preparing for mobilisation in the event of a crisis of any type. Smart city command centres are envisioned, integrating data and command, to comprehensively forecast and handle crisis events. From the Communist Party’s perspective, modern technology could achieve the integration of cross-regional and inter-departmental groupings, thereby (‘ideally’ from the perspective of the Communist Party) improving the party’s capacity to control and respond to any emergency.